2016 WTA Sydney Preview and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Australian Open preparations conclude with two tournaments a week before the first grand slam of the season in Sydney and Hobart. With the Premier status of the Sydney International, many of the top players elect to play here as they attempt to get some momentum behind them for the Australian Open.
The Sydney International is one of the oldest tournaments on the calendar dating back to 1885. In 2000 it moved to its current home, the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre.
Former champions include: Jennifer Capriati, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Chris Evert, Justine Henin, Martina Hingis, Amélie Mauresmo, Gabriela Sabatini, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, Monica Seles and Petra Kvitova. Evonne Goolagong and Martina Navratilova share the Open Era tournament record with four titles each.
The Apia Sydney International
Location: Sydney, Australia
Prize Money: $687,900
Date: January 10th-16th 2016
The eight seeded players (Ranking)
1: Simona Halep (2)
2. Agnieszka Radwanska(5)
3. Petra Kvitova (6)
4. Angelique Kerber (10)
5. Karolina Pliskova(11)
6. Timea Bacsinszky (12)
7. Carla Suarez Navarro (13)
8. Belinda Bencic (14)
A strong line up with all the seeds inside the top 15.
First round matches to watch
(4) Angelique Kerber vs Elina Svitolina
Kerber will be looking to put the results of the Brisbane final behind her this week as she attempts to win the Sydney crown.
The German was been drawn a tough round one against rising youngster Svitolina. The Ukrainian played well in her country’s run to the Hopman Cup final and is certainly a player to watch out for this season.
Expect long rallies between two counter punchers and do not be surprised to see an upset for the fourth seed. It will be interesting to see how Svitolina’s best shot, the backhand, holds up against the leftie forehand of Kerber.
(5) Karolina Pliskova vs Ana Ivanovic
Karolina Pliskova will be playing her first WTA event of the season as she attempts to push on from an excellent 2015. The Czech excelled in these events last season and was a runner up last time out.
Ivanovic took a top 20 wildcard into the event after a shock loss to Naomi Broady last week. The Serbian is in need of wins but will find that tough against Pliskova.
The fifth seed has won their previous two meetings both on a hard court. Her serve and effortless power have proven difficult for Ivanovic to handle in the past, will she have the answer in their rubber match?
Caroline Garcia vs Kristina Mladenovic
Outside of the seeds there is an interesting all French clash on the cards in the opening round. Garcia and Mladenovic have elected to play doubles together this year with the Olympics in mind, but they will first be pitted against each other in Sydney.
Both are young and talented but have question marks about their mental approach to the game. There will be some good points and bad points as neither girl is consistent, and Halep will be a keen observer as she will meet the winner in round two.
First Quarter: Top seed Halep withdrew from Brisbane last week so there will be questions as to whether she will be up to play in Sydney. The Romanian is entered however, and will have extra time to prepare due to her opening round bye. The second round will be interesting as she will meet a talented Frenchwoman in round two. Will it be Garcia or Mladenovic that opposes the world number two?
Pliskova will love to start 2016 similar to the way she started 2015, with a good run here in Sydney. She has been drawn a tough round one against Ivanovic but will take confidence from the 2-0 head to head lead she holds against the Serbian. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or a qualifier will await the winner.
Second Quarter: Kvitova is another player who withdrew in the opening week so there are question marks over the defending champions fitness. Lisicki is not a player you want to face early on as she does not give you much rhythm. A heavy hitting contest there. Svetlana Kuznetsova or wildcard Tammi Patterson will meet the winner.
Suarez Navarro’s 2015 season was a tale of two halves. She has a lot to defend in the opening few months, can she maintain her ranking? Sara Errani will contest her in round one which will likely be a lengthy battle. Coco Vandweghe or Jelena Jankovic will meet the winner in the second round.
Third quarter: Kerber vs Svitolina might be the match of the opening round and it falls in this section. The winner will fancy themselves for the quarter finals given Ekaterina Makarova is out of form and she meets a qualifier in round two.
Bencic will be kicking herself after a shock loss to Samantha Crawford last week prevented a deep Brisbane run. The 18 year old will be looking to bounce back in Sydney where she opens against a qualifier. Lesia Tsurenko or Tsvetana Pironkova will await in round two.
Fourth Quarter: Agnieszka Radwanska will be looking to continue her winning streak after claiming the Shenzhen open last week. The Pole’s seeding means she has time to rest up as she gets a bye into the second round. She will have a tough round two against Roberta Vinci or Sam Stosur.
Bacsinszky will be looking to put her opening week disappointment behind her when she takes to the courts of Sydney. Anna Schmiedlova is a tough opening round with the potential of facing Daria Gavrilova in round two. It is a tough section for the Swiss.
Pliskova def. Garcia
Suarez Navarro def. Kvitova
Kerber def. Bencic
Radwanska def. Gavrilova
Pliskova def. Suarez Navarro
Radwanska def. Kerber
Pliskova def. Radwanska
It is a hard tournament to predict with many players likely to try and conserve themselves for the Australian Open. Pliskova made the final here last season so she knows what it takes and that’s why i have gone for the Czech.